Slumber party ends as Bearcats jolt Grant County

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By John Herndon

DRY RIDGE - The calendar said Friday, but you could have sworn Anderson County put together a Monday morning performance at Grant County.

Anderson's 68-51 margin of victory suggests a routine day at the office for the Bearcats. But in reality, it was more like someone struggling to get out of bed after a long weekend, then finally getting the blood pumping after the first coffee break of the week.

The Bearcats overcame an early 13-point deficit to go 11-4 on the year. It was also Anderson's sixth consecutive win over Grant. All-state candidate C.J. Penny poured in 26 points to lead all scorers but it was his play in other facets of the game that lifted his team like a jolt of super caffeine.

"We had a total lack of focus early," Anderson coach Glen Drury lamented.

There were turnovers - 10 of them in the first quarter, four in the first 1:53 - and a penchant for letting the smaller, but not necessarily quicker, Braves beat their man for easy layups as the hosts built a 16-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. It did not help matters that Anderson point guard Ryan Wells picked up his second foul and went to the bench just 2:55 in.

"They are playing well and we have got to play better," Drury could be heard yelling at his troops in the huddle at the first quarter break.

Like someone hitting the snooze alarm for a few more winks, Anderson did not immediately respond. When Grant guard Jared Livingood, the smallest player on the floor, scored on a putback, the Braves had built a 23-10 lead on a team many observers feel is the team to beat in the Eighth Region and forced Drury to use his second timeout with 6:45 to go before halftime.

Anderson had entered the contest a heavy favorite in the statewide computer rankings.

"Give a lot of credit to Grant County," Drury said. "They were trying to knock us out. I had seen them against Simon Kenton and knew they were good enough to throw a punch, but I am not sure the kids believed it."

Grant coach Ron Kinmon, now in his ninth year at the school, added, "I think our kids played hard." Kinmon then flashed a smile indicating the understatement about Anderson, saying, "They are a very good team."

Wells, who had re-entered the lineup despite his foul trouble, drilled a 3-pointer out of the timeout. After a defensive stop, Jacob Russell fed Nathan Grooms for a layup to pare the margin to single digits again.

Anderson's switch from a man-to-man to its 2-3 zone cut off Grant Drives and forced the Braves to start firing long-range bombs.

After Wells' bomb, backup center Nick Humphries put back a missed free throw and started a fast break with an outlet pass to Russell, who threaded a pass to Will Ruggles for a spinning layup. Even though Anderson still trailed 25-20, the sequence was an indication that it was just a matter of time before the Bearcats established their superiority.

"Penny had a couple of steals that we converted that were huge," Drury noted.

The junior converted a Russell pass into a three-point play, then turned his steals into a pair of free throws and a dynamite assist to Humphries for a layup.

"He's a great player," Kinmon said. "Penny can dominate you scoring but he can dominate with his passing and reounding and many other aspects of the game."

Anderson finally took the lead for good when Penny slipped a pass around a pair of Grant defenders to Austin Corn for a layup that made it 32-30 at halftime.

An 8-0 run to start the second half put things firmly in Anderson's control. When Russell whipped a pass to Penny for another easy basket in the low post, Anderson's lead increased to 44-33. Grant never got within single digits again.

Anderson, which had already shot nearly 55 percent in the first half, blistered the nets at a 70.8 percent clip in the final 16 minutes, finishing at 63 percent.

Penny hit on 11 of 16 shots while Russell went 7-for-11 for 14 points. He also had 6 assists and was charged with the task of slowing down Grant's leading scorer, Cody Kinmon, the coach's nephew. Kinmon finished with 15 points.

"Jacob Russell played the best game he has played for us," Drury said. "His passing was outstanding."

Humphries came off the bench to score 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He also tied Penny for game honors with 11 rebounds as the Bearcats dominated the boards 37-16.

"Nick has the ability to do that. He gave us a good game," Drury said.

But coming just six days after a 21-point shellacking from Paintsville, Drury said his team still has a long way to go if it is to reach its dream of the Sweet 16.

"We think we are better than we are," he said. "If we don't get better defensively, we are in trouble. Until we get better defensively, we are very vulnerable. Grant did a great job of preparing for this game and had a great game plan. They just went around us because we were not fundamentally sound. We have to have people decide they are going to just get down and guard people."

Drury then let a small smile etch across his face. While he knew the defense he so loves had some serious holes, he also saw a previously untested trait manifest itself.

"This was the first win this club has had coming from behind," he said. "That is a good thing."

Junior varsity wins

The Anderson County junior varsity pulled away from an 18-17 halftime lead to score a 46-35 victory over the Grant County JV in the preliminary game. Landon Jenkins scored 13 points to lead the young Bearcats, who are now 9-1 on the year. Humphries added 10.